Why This Is the Perfect Time to Break Up with Toilet Paper

Maybe toilet paper isn't as necessary as we think.

COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. In addition to being asked to stay home, many of us are also being forced to re-evaluate previously held notions about society and learning we’re all more interconnected than we think. The grocery store worker, the bartender who lost their job, and the delivery driver who brings packages to your door directly affect the physical, emotional, and financial health of the entire nation. We’re all in this together. If one good thing can come out of this, it will perhaps be that more people realize this now.

There are many everyday habits that could (and should) change forever after coronavirus and I’m beginning to realize that my toilet paper usage should be one of them. Europe has long been less dependent on toilet paper than we in the United States are, thanks to the fact that bidets are more common there. Perhaps this moment is telling us it’s time to follow their lead. Here’s why.

Toilet paper is scarce right now

Americans are nothing short of heroic at our best, but the coronavirus crisis has sadly exposed how selfish we can be at our worst. For every uplifting story of neighbors helping neighbors during the coronavirus, there are countless more accounts of people selfishly hoarding and stockpiling supplies. Toilet paper, in particular, has become a symbol of greed as social media explodes with pictures of empty shelves and tales of people who can’t find a single roll for their families due to overzealous hoarding.

The real losers in this situation are the people who struggle financially and can’t afford to purchase in bulk. I know this situation all too well because I’ve been there myself as a single mother living paycheck to paycheck. It was challenging enough to scrape together enough money to buy toilet paper in the best of circumstances, but at least it was always available when I needed it. If it was being hoarded by the more affluent members of my community, I don’t know where I would have turned for help.

I’m not hoarding items or buying anything more than I need, but at the same time, I regret that I’m buying toilet paper at all. I’d rather leave it on the shelf and save it for people in need. Find out how to avoid falling victim to coronavirus shopping frenzy.

Toilet paper is bad for the environment

There are tiny, everyday changes we can all make to help the environment and breaking up with toilet paper is one of them. The majority of large toilet paper manufacturers don’t use recycled content in their residential toilet paper, and sadly, 27,000 trees are chopped down each day to keep up with demand. Not only that but the equivalent of 270,000 trees are either deposited into landfills or flushed every day. An estimated 10 percent of that comes from toilet paper.

In an age where it’s increasingly urgent that we find ways to reduce our carbon footprint, lessening our need for and dependency on toilet paper is a start.

Toilet paper can clog your toilet

If you’ve ever had a toilet clog, you know they are no fun. If the stoppage is mild, you may be able to unclog your toilet without a plunger, but there are other times when using too much toilet paper can cost you an expensive visit from the plumber. And watch out for the one mistake that’ll make a clogged toilet worse.

Although this can be partially mitigated by avoiding brands of toilet paper that are actually bad for your toilet, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had to call a plumber now and then. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that sort of expendable income. Fewer visits from the plumber means I’ll have more money to put food on the table.

Toilet paper is expensive

I make my living as a freelance writer. It’s a great job and I love it, but it’s not exactly the kind of career that’ll make you a millionaire. I’m constantly pinching pennies and looking for creative ways to save money. In the United States, toilet paper is a $31 billion a year industry due to the fact that the average American uses three rolls of toilet paper a week (no wonder it’s the best-selling item at Costco). In a household of four, this amounts to a dozen rolls of toilet paper a week.

For me, reducing my household’s reliance on toilet paper would mean more money to spend on other necessities, even if that means I need to make an initial investment up front.

Toilet paper isn’t sanitary

I’m far from a perfect person when it comes to being organized. I’m really good at keeping up with my laundry and cleaning my kitchen, but my closet is a mess and I keep telling myself that one of these days I’ll get around to getting rid of things and organizing my bathroom. Cleanliness, however, is very important to me and studies have shown that toilet paper actually does little to remove feces. It’s no wonder so many everyday items are actually covered in fecal matter. This, frankly, grosses me out so you can bet I’m looking for alternatives.

The bottom line is that toilet paper isn’t even necessary

Before toilet paper existed, people used everything from dried corn cobs to sticks and sponges. I’m in no way advocating for us to go back to that today, but it’s important to recognize that we do have options. For instance, this toilet that saves Japan millions of gallons of water a year. It’s an attachable bidet that cleans more thoroughly with a stream of water—yet manages to lose less water than flushing a standard toilet. I’m always looking for ways to save on water usage, so if I can do that, stay cleaner, and cut back on toilet paper, it’s a win all around. Next, find out which toilet paper alternatives will—and won’t—clog your toilet.

Editor’s note: The opinions here belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Trusted Media Brands. To submit your own idea for an essay, email [email protected]

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Tamara Gane
Tamara Gane is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest covering travel, lifestyle, history, and culture. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet, HuffPost Food, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @TamaraGane